Two-thirds of GP surgeries in Sheffield are shut for lengthy periods on weekdays, a new investigation has found.
An analysis of the opening hours of the city’s 105 surgeries found more than 60 per cent closed on a Thursday afternoon, with some shutting as early as 10.20am.
The figure has been met with criticism from patients’ groups, who say A&E units in hospitals come under strain when GPs are unavailable.
Anyone ringing a closed doctors’ surgery is put through to an out-of-hours service.
Websites instruct people to go to walk-in centres if their case is urgent.
Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, urged the Government to ensure patients can get appointments between 8am and 6.30pm.
She said: “It is ultimately the patients who will suffer and they will continue to present themselves at the already overstretched A&E if they are not able to access GP services when they need it.”
And Joyce Robins, co-director of Patient Concern, added: “The Government is meant to be encouraging practices to stay open for longer but many aren’t even open when they should be.”
But Dr Maureen Baker, chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said the findings contrasted with what members told them, saying doctors were working longer hours to provide more care.
A spokesperson for NHS England said: “GP practices must open for their contracted hours. This is non-negotiable.”
Of more than 944 surgeries nationwide, 29 per cent shut during the working week. More than a quarter were closed for one afternoon a week, usually Wednesday or Thursday.